These days I can go for weeks without thinking of myself as an ex addict but, if there’s one thing that reminds me of that former life – it’s having a blood test. I had to have a routine one a few weeks back and as I sat in the waiting room, feeling cold and clammy, I got the urge to walk back out. I didn’t. I knew that the blood test was in my benefit – that the NHS needed my blood to tell me if everything was okay. So I offered up my arm as if on the altar for sacrifice (okay then, the NHS white formica table…) and thought of England. Well, sort of. I had tears in my eyes and nearly fainted. See, you’d be forgiven into thinking that us ex users, ex injectors would happily have needles stuck into their bodies. Well why not? We’ve done it all before – we’re used to it aren’t we.
Well, the answer is – I think for a lot of ex-injectors out there. We’ve grown to HATE needles. I used to love them. I know of some people injecting water into their veins after getting clean becuase they were addicted to ‘the pin’ just as much.
There’s also something mortifying and degrading when you rock up to the nurse’s room, with your thin black scars and your abcess marks. She gives you a knowing look – one of distaste and then seems to stab you with the needle even harder. Not taking the same care and attention she would to any regular Dr’s frequenter.
I used to have to have blood tests every 3-6 months when I was on subutex to check the function of the liver. Or, I was supposed to have them but after one particularly bad time with a nurse trying to find a vein and stabbing both arms for what felt like half an hour – I refused to go back. I’d walked into the room and told her I was an ex user and she might struggle to find a vein – she checked my left arm, which I knew was a no goer so told her.’ Humph’.. she grunted after 12 attempts and begun to put the NHS tourniquet onto the other arm. By that point I was terrified and when you’re scared, your blood flows deeper to your organs and away from your skin which means your veins play hard to get even more. (See – who needs Science lessons when you’ve got heroin lessons kids!) The nurse however, seemed to take it as a personal challenge. Stabbing me and bruising me – to no avail. She told me to go and wait in the waiting room, calm myself down and go and get a drink of water before returning. I went in the waiting room, cold and shaking – tears burning my eyes. Yep – you guessed it. I walked out and didn’t go back. I didn’t care if my liver was shrivelling up and getting fatty. You can get new ones these days anyway.